Russians from Europe? Thousands of Russian tourists use Finland as a transit country to the west

Won’t Russians get visas for the Schengen area soon? Deutsche Welle radio station writes that thousands of Russian tourists are using Finland as a transit country to the West, as this demand is increasingly being heard in the European Union.

My Russian friend Artyom is in love with Finland. Beautiful lakes, friendly people, fresh air. He knows the country well as he has visited it many times. Lives in Arshan St. Petersburg and has been using the simplified procedure for issuing visas at the Finnish embassy in his city for many years. Even now, direct flights to Europe are suspended for Russians. EU airspace has been closed to Russian aircraft since the start of the war in Ukraine and, conversely, EU aircraft are not allowed to enter the airspace of the Russian Federation.

That is why Artyum travels by car. He often goes to Helsinki on the weekend. It is a 400 kilometer road that he covers in about five hours. He could only narrow it down to Lappinranda, a large city near the Russian border. Artyom returns from Finland for a few days.

Russians should no longer spend their holidays in the EU

But thousands of Russian tourists never returned. At least they don’t come back after a few days. Many of them travel by car or coach directly to Helsinki-Vantaa Airport and travel west by plane. Since the beginning of this year, Russians have applied for nearly 60,000 visas to Finland, according to Finnish mass media. Most visa requests for the Schengen area are sent to the Finnish Embassy in St. Petersburg. Petersburg. It is this gateway to the EU that worries many Europeans. Russians can’t enjoy vacations in the West while Moscow is bombing Ukrainian cities, they say.

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The Baltic states have not been a holiday destination for Russians for months. Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia no longer issue tourist visas to Russian citizens. Latvia goes even further and does not allow them to enter the country except after the death of a close relative.

The heads of government of Finland and Estonia recently asked other EU countries to stop issuing tourist visas to Russians. In Finland, 58 percent of the population supports this approach, according to a survey conducted by public television station Yle.
A ban on Schengen visas for Russians is being discussed at the EU level

Schengen visas for Russians will be a topic of discussion at a meeting of EU foreign ministers in Prague at the end of August. But the EU has 27 member states, not all of which are part of the Schengen area, with its 26 members. Four countries – Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein – are not even members of the EU that issue Schengen visas.

Dmitry Longo of the European Studies Department at the University of St. Petersburg sees nothing more or less than “everyday nationalism” in this debate. In a discussion with DW he criticized the “desire to punish all Russians”. The category “Russians” includes not only ethnic Russians, but also “Tatars, Chechens and representatives of all peoples of the Russian Federation, including, without exception, Ukrainians living in Russia,” the professor pointed out.

Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kalas recently added fuel to the fire by tweeting that “going to Europe is a privilege, not a human right.” His words caused great discontent in Russia. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova qualified the quote as “nonsense” coming from some “Estonian fantasists”. Zakharova slyly replied in a telegram: “The real privilege is the fortune to see Russia in all its diversity and greatness.”

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Don’t fight with tourists “because of geopolitics”.

From the point of view of Alexander Koroho, a member of the union of Russian tour operators “Sonata”, the exchange of these lines is “an emotional expression”. For DW he noted that Russian tourists bring money with them, even when it comes to transit tourism. “In my opinion, these countries should fight to turn the river of tourists into a real river of tourists, with overnight stays and all that,” said Korokhov, who offered a practical solution: not to fight tourists because of geopolitics. “.

My friend Artyom from St. Petersburg does not want to “wake up between the cogwheels of geopolitics”, especially since he and his friends did not elect Vladimir Putin. But for a possible ban on visas, they will have an understanding. Artium is planning a short trip back to Lapland this weekend. As far as possible.

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